Approximately 1 in 5 Americans is a caregiver, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Are you one of them? Are you the recipient? Most caregivers also have paid jobs in addition to the time they spend helping a friend or loved one. For some, caregiving is a full time role. Caregivers dedicate so much time caring for other people that it can be easy for them to forget to take time for themselves.
Here are the National Kidney Foundation's Top 5 Tips for Caring for the Caregiver.
- Set aside "me" time. Everyone deserves time for themselves and there’s no need to feel guilty about it. It’s important to establish boundaries and to designate this time for yourself. Whether it is spent reading, at the gym, or listening to music, having “me” time is important. It allows you to decompress and focus on your own needs, in addition to those of your loved one.
- Accept others’ offers to help and ask for help when you need it. Remember that you don’t have to do it all, all of the time. Often people are willing to help but may not know how to help or even how to offer. Speak up when you’re in need and give people specific tasks to assist you, even if this just means letting someone else drive your loved one to a dialysis treatment or a doctor’s appointment. Additionally, there are many organizations that help with transportation, bathing, respite and meals. For more information about resources for kidney patients, you can call the NKF Cares Helpline toll-free at 1-855-NKF-Cares (653-2273) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's dedicated to patients, family members and caregivers. Speak with a trained professional who will help answer your questions and listen to your concerns. You can also speak with your dialysis clinic social worker for more information about the resources in your area.
- Do something to relieve stress. Take a walk. Write in a journal. Everyone releases stress differently, but do what works for you. People with kidney disease can also get fit and relieve stress through exercise. Find out how by clicking here for more information about exercising with CKD.
- Pay attention to your own mental and physical health. Caregivers aren’t invincible. They can also get sick and it’s important to keep healthy or it will be difficult to care for someone else. Don’t take care of another’s health needs to the detriment of your own emotional and physical health. Listen to your body for cues. Eat meals sitting down rather than on the go, and aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Schedule regular check-ups and don’t neglect seeing your own doctors just because you spend a lot of time at the doctors’ offices of your loved one.
- Connect with others who understand what you’re experiencing. You’re not alone. There are support groups that exist to connect caregivers with other caregivers. Some of these meet in person while others take place online or over the phone to form a community of individuals who understand one another’s situations. You can also speak with a friend, clergy member or therapist for more one-on-one support or call the NKF Cares Helpline to connect with others.
For more information and resources for caregivers, visit the National Kidney Foundation's website